Surgical procedures in the mouth area aren’t all that uncommon. In fact, five million Americans have their wisdom teeth removed each year, along with several other dental procedures. But more people are sitting in a sterilized chair for other reasons — like to have their tongue split or pierced.
Body modification is extremely common in today’s society and for the most part, it’s safe to do. But when it comes to splitting or piercing tongues, surgeons are saying these types of procedures are extremely dangerous.
Tongue splitting, which is a cosmetic procedure in which the tongue is cut in half for a forked effect, is generally offered in tattoo parlors or piercings shops. These procedures are done alongside strictly regulated procedures, like tattoos and body piercings. But throughout most of the world, tongue splitting is not regulated.
Tongue splitting was deemed illegal this past March by a Court of Appeal, which makes the rule active in both England and Wales. But as for the rest of the UK, and the rest of the world, these procedures are still legal.
“As dental surgeons, we’ve seen some of the horrific consequences of these procedures,” explained Selina Master, from the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England. “The FDS and BAPRAS are also concerned that despite the legal debate, the demand for tongue-splitting procedures may continue but simply be driven underground.”
Procedures like tongue splitting can have serious risks — blood loss, problems with breathing or swallowing, infections, and nerve damage are all very real possibilities when these procedures are done. Some of these risks, like nerve damage, could lead to other problems, and may even lead people to join the 1.5 billion people worldwide who suffer from chronic pain.
Along with tongue splitting, tongue or lip piercings also pose risks. These piercings can lead to gum or tooth damage, mouth lesions, and infections. And with the mouth being so connected to the rest of the body, these seemingly small risks could lead to even greater health concerns.
Master went on to add that the FDS would “strongly advise people not to have oral piercings or tongue splits, however, if they do, it is crucial they see their dentist on a regular basis so that the impact on their oral health can be closely monitored. Never try to carry out one of these procedures on yourself, or others.”
So while body modifications continue to become more popular and accepted in today’s society, experts recommend that tongue splitting, as well as oral piercings, are not done by anyone, anywhere.